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Full text of "Address of President Roosevelt on the occasion of the laying of the corner stone of the Pilgrim memorial monument"

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MASSACHUSEnS, AUGUST 20, 1907 ^ ^ 











Oft.*?. A- '2-'^ 


It is not too much to say that the event 
commemorated by the monument which 
we have come here to dedicate was one 
of those rare events which can in good 
faith be called of world importance. The 
coming hither of the Pilgrim three cen- 
turies ago, followed in far larger numbers 
by his sterner kinsmen, the Puritans, 
shaped the destinies of this continent, 
and therefore profoundly affected the 



destiny of the whole world. Men of 

other races, the Frenchman and the 
Spaniard, the Dutchman, the German, the 
Scotchman, the Irishman, and the Swede, 
made settlements within what is now the 
United States, during the colonial period 
of our history and before the Declaration 
of Independence; and since then there 
has been an ever-swelling immigration 
from Ireland and from the mainland of 
Europe ; but it was the Englishman who 
settled in Virginia and the Englishman 


who settled in Massachusetts who did 

most in shaping the lines of our national 

We can not as a nation be too pro- 
foundly grateful for the fact that the Puri- 
tan has stamped his influence so deeply 
on our national life. We need have but 
scant patience with the men who now rail 
at the Puritan's faults. They were evi- 

dent, of course, for it is a quality of strong i 
natures that their failings, like their vir- 
tues, should stand out in bold relief; but 


there is nothing easier than to belittle the 

great men of the past by dvvelUng only on 
the points where they come short of the 
universally recognized standards of the 
present. Men must be judged with refer- 
ence to the age in which they dwell, 
and the work they have to do. The 
Puritan's task was to conquer a con- 
tinent; not merely to overrun it, but 
to settle it, to till it, to build upon it 
a high industrial and social life; and, 
while engaged in the rough work of 



taming the shaggy wilderness, at that very 

time also to lay deep the immovable foun- 
dations of our whole American system of 
I civil, political, and religious liberty 
achieved through the orderly process of 

1 law. This was the work allotted him to 


do; this is the work he did; and only a 
master spirit among men could have 
done it. 

We have traveled far since his day. 
That liberty of conscience which he de- 
manded for himself, we now realize must 


be as freely accorded to others as it is 

resolutely insisted upon for ourselves. 
The splendid qualities which he left 
to his children, we other Americans 
who are not of Puritan blood also claim 
as our heritage. You, sons of the Puri- 
tanS; and we, who are descended from 
races whom the Puritans would have 
deemed alien — we are all Americans to- 
gether. We all feel the same pride in the 
genesis, in the history, of our people; and 
therefore this shrine of Puritanism is one 

at which we all gather to pay homage, no 

matter from what country our ancestors 


We have gained some things that the 

Puritan had not — we of this generation, 

we of the twentieth century, here in this 

great Republic; but we are also in danger 

of losing certain things which the Puritan 

had and which we can by no manner of 

means afford to lose. We have gained 

a joy of living which he had not, and 

which it is a good thing for every people 


to have and to develop. Let us see 
to it that we do not lose what is 
more important still ; that we do not 
lose the Puritan's iron sense of duty, 
his unbending, unflinching will to do 
the right as it was given him to see the 


right. It is a good thing that life should 
gain in sweetness, but only provided that 
it does not lose in strength. Ease and 
rest and pleasure are good things, but 
only if they come as the reward of work 
well done, of a good fight well won, of 

1 1 

strong effort resolutely made and crowned 

by high achievement. The life of mere 
pleasure, of mere effortless ease, is as 
ignoble for a nation as for an individual. 
The man is but a poor father who teaches 
his sons that ease and pleasure should be 
their chief objects in life ; the woman who 
is a mere petted toy, incapable of serious 
purpose, shrinking from effort and duty, 
is more pitiable than the veriest over- 
worked drudge. So he is but a poor 
leader of the people, but a poor national 



adviser, who seeks to make the nation in 
any way subordinate effort to ease, who 
would teach the people not to prize as the 
greatest blessing the chance to do any 
work, no matter how hard, if it becomes 
their duty to do it. To the sons of the 
Puritans it is almost needless to say that the 
lesson above all others which Puritanism can 
teach this nation is the all-importance of 
j— iheLjcesolute performance of duty. If we are 
men we will pass by with contemptuous 
disdain alike the advisers who would 


seek to lead us into the paths of ignoble 

ease and those who would teach us to 
admire successful wrongdoing. Our 
ideals should be high, and yet they 
should be capable of achievement in 
practical fashion; and we are as 
little to be excused if we permit our ideals 
to be tainted with what is sordid and 
mean and base, as if we allow our power 
of achievement to atrophy and become 
either incapable of effort or capable only 
of such fantastic effort as to accomplish 

nothing of permanant good. The true 
doctrine to preach to this nation, as to 
the individuals composing this nation, is 
not the life of ease, but the life of effort. 
If it were in my power to promise the 
people of this land anything, I would not 
promise them pleasure. I would promise 
them that stern happiness which comes 
from the sense of having done in practical 
fashion a difficult work which was worth 

The Puritan owed his extraordinary 


success in subduing this continent and 

making it the foundation for a social life 
of ordered liberty primarily to the fact 
that he combined in a very remarkable 
degree both the power of individual 
initiative, of individual self-help, and the 
power of acting in combination with his 
fellows; and that furthermore he joined 
to a high heart that shrewd common 
sense which saves a man from the 
besetting sins of the visionary and the 
doctrinaire. He was stout hearted and 

hard headed. He had lofty purposes, 

but he had practical good sense, too. 
He could hold his own in the rough 
workaday world without clamorous insist- 
ence upon being helped by others, and yet 
he could combine with others whenever it 
became necessary to do a job which could 
not be as well done by any one man indi- 

These were the qualities which enabled 
him to do his work, and they are the very 
qualities which we must show in doing our 



work to-day. There is no use in our com- 
ing here to pay homage to the men who 
founded this nation unless we first of all 
come in the spirit of trying to do our work 
to-day as they did their work in the yester- 
days that have vanished. The problems 
shift from generation to generation, but the 
spirit in which they must be approached, 
if they are to be successfully solved, re- 
mains ever the same. The Puritan tamed 
the wilderness, and built up a free govern- 
ment on the stump-dotted clearings amid 



the primeval forest. His descendants must 

I try to shape the life of our complex indus- 

I trial civilization by new devices, by new 

I methods, so as to achieve in the end the 


' same results of justice and fair dealing 

toward all. He cast aside nothing old 

merely for the sake of innovation, yet he 

did not hesitate to adopt anything new that 

would save his purpose. When he planted 

his commonwealths on this rugged coast - 

he faced wholly new conditions and 

he had to devise new methods of 


meeting them. So we of to-day face 

wholly new conditions in our social and 
industrial life. We should certainly not 
adopt any new scheme for grappling with 
them merely because it is new and un- 
tried; but we can not afford to shrink 
from grappling with them because they 
can only be grappled with by some new 

The Puritan was no Laodicean, no 
laissez-faire theorist. When he saw con- 
duct which was in violation of his rights — 


of the rights of man, the rights of God, as 

he understood them — he attempted to 
regulate such conduct with instant, 
unquestioning promptness and effective- 
ness. If there was no other way to 
secure conformity with the rule of right, 
then he smote down the transgressor 
with the iron of his wrath. The spirit of 
the Puritan was a spirit which never 
shrank from regulation of conduct if such 
regulation was necessary for the public 
weal; and this is the spirit which we 


must show to-day whenever it is nec- 

The utterly changed conditions of our 
national life necessitate changes in certain 
of our laws, of our governmental methods. 
Our federal system of government is based 
upon the theory of leaving to each 
community, to each State, the con- 
trol over those things which affect 
only its own members and which the 
people of the locality themselves can 
best grapple with, while providing 


for national regulation in those matters 
which necessarily affect the nation as a 
whole. It seems to me that such questions 
as national sovereignty and state's rights 
need to be treated not empirically or aca- 
demically, but from the standpoint of the 
interests of the people as a whole. National 
sovereignty is to be upheld in so far as it 
means the sovereignty of the people used 
for the real and ultimate good of the people; 
and state's rights are to be upheld in so 
far as they mean the people's rights. 


Especially is this true in dealing with the 
relations of the people as a whole to the 
great corporations which are the distin- 
guishing feature of modern business con- 

Experience has shown that it is nec- 
essary to exercise a far more efficient con- 
trol than at present over the business use 
of those vast fortunes, chiefly corporate, 
which are used (as under modern* condi- 
tions they almost invariably are) in inter- 
state business. When the Constitution 


was created none of the conditions of 
modern business existed. They are 
wholly new and we must create new 
agencies to deal effectively with them. 
There is no objection in the minds 
of this people to any man's earning 
any amount of money if he does it hon- 
estly and fairly, if he gets it as the result 
of special skill and enterprise, as a re- 
ward of ample service actually rendered. 
\ But there is a growing determination that 
no man shall amass a great fortune by 


special privilege, by chicanery and wrong- 
doing, so far as it is in the power of 
legislation to prevent; and that a 
fortune, however amassed, shall not have 

a business use that is antisocial. ' Most 

— I 

large corporations do a business that is 
not confined to any one State. Experi- 
ence has shown that the effort to con- 
trol these corporations by mere State 
action can not produce wholesome re- 
sults. In most cases such effort fails to 
correct the real abuses of which the cor- 


poration is or may be guilty; while in 
other cases the effort is apt to cause 
either hardship to the corporation itself, 
or else hardship to neighboring States 
which have not tried to grapple with the 
problem in the same manner; and of 
course we must be as scrupulous to safe- 
guard the rights of the corporations as to 
exact from them in return a full measure 
of justice to the public. I believe in a 
national incorporation law for corporations 
engaged in interstate business. I believe, 


furthermore, that the need for action 
is most pressing as regards those cor- 
porations which, because they are 
common carriers, exercise a quasi- 
pubHc function; and which can be com- 
pletely controlled, in all respects by the 
Federal Government, by the exercise of 
the power conferred under the interstate- 
commerce clause, and, if necessary, under 
the post-road clause, of the Constitu- 
tion. During the last few years we 
have taken marked strides in advance 


along the road of proper regulation of 
these railroad corporations; but we must 
not stop in the work. The National Gov- 
ernment should exercise over them a 
similar supervision and control to that 
which it exercises over national banks. 
We can do this only by proceeding far- 
ther along the lines marked out by the 
recent national legislation. 

In dealing with any totally new set of 
conditions there must at the outset be hesi- 
tation and experiment. Such has been our 


experience in dealing with the enormous 
concentration of capital employed in inter- 
state business. Not only the legislatures 
but the courts and the people need gradu- 
ally to be educated so that they may see 

what the real wrongs are and what the 

real remedies. Almost every big business 
concern is engaged in interstate com- 
merce, and such a concern must not be 
allowed by a dexterous shifting of posi- 
tion, as has been too often the case in 
the past, to escape thereby all responsi- 


bility either to State or to nation. The 

American people- became firmly con- 
vinced of the need of control over 
these great aggregations of capital, espe- 
cially where they had a monopolistic 
tendency, before they became quite clear 
as to the proper way of achieving the con- 
trol. Through their representatives in 
Congress they tried two remedies, which 
were to a large degree, at least as 
interpreted by the courts, contradic- 
tory. On the one hand, under the anti- 

trust law the effort was made to prohibit 

all combination, whether it was or was not 
hurtful or beneficial to the public. On 
the other hand, through the interstate- 
commerce law a beginning was made in 
exercising such supervision and control 
over combinations as to prevent their 
doing anything harmful to the body 
politic. The first law, the so-called Sher- 
man law, has filled a useful place, for it 
bridges over the transition period until the 
American people shall definitely make up 


its mind that it will exercise over the great 
corporations that thoroughgoing and radi- 
cal control which it is certain ultimately to 
find necessary. The principle of the Sher- 
man law so far as it prohibits combina- 
tions which, whether because of their extent 
or of their character, are harmful to 
the public must always be preserved. 
Ultimately, and 1 hope with reason- 
able speed, the National Government 
must pass laws which, while increasing 
the supervisory and regulatory power of 

the Government, also permits such useful 

combinations as are made with absolute 
openness and as the representatives of the 
Government may previously approve. 
But it will not be possible to permit such 
combinations save as the second stage in 
a course of proceedings of which the first 
stage must be the exercise of a far more 
complete control by the National Gov- 

In dealing with those who offend 
against the antitrust and interstate com- 


merce laws the Department of Justice has 

to encounter many and great difficulties. 
Often men who have been guilty of \'io- 
lating these laws have really acted in 
criminal fashion, and if possible should be 
proceeded against criminally; and there- 
fore it is advisable that there should 
be a clause in these laws providing 
for such criminal action, and for pun- 
ishment by imprisonment as well as 
by fine. But, as is well known, in a 
criminal action the law is strictly con- 

strued in favor of the defendant, and in 

our country, at least, both judge and 

jury are far more inclined to consider his 

rights than they are the interests of the 

general public; while in addition it is 

always true that a man's general practices 

may be so bad that a civil action 

will lie when it may not be possible 

to convict him of any one criminal act. 

There is unfortunately a certain number 

of our fellow-countrymen who seem to 

accept the view that unless a man can be 

proved guilty of some particular crime he 

shall be counted a good citizen, no mat- 
ter how infamous the life he has led, 
no matter how pernicious his doctrines or 
his practices. This is the view announced 
from time to time with clamorous insist- 
ence, now by a group ol predatory capi- 
talists, now by a group of sinister 
anarchistic leaders and agitators, when- 
ever a special champion of either class, 
no matter how evil his general life, is 
acquitted of some one specific crime. 

Such a view is wicked whether applied to 

capitalist or labor leader, to rich man or 
poor man; (and by the way, I take this op- 
portunity of stating that all that I have said 
in the past as to desirable and undesirable 
citizens remains true, and that I stand by it). 
We have to take this feeling into 
account when we are debating whether 
it is possible to get a conviction in 
a criminal proceeding against some rich 
trust magnate, many of whose actions 
are severely to be condemned from 


the moral and social standpoint, but no 

one of whose actions seems clearly to 
establish such technical guilt as will en- 
sure a conviction. As a matter of expe- 
diency, in enforcing the law against a 
great corporation, we have continually to 
weigh the arguments pro and con as to 
whether a prosecution can successfully be 
entered into, and as to whether we can be 
successful in a criminal action against the 
chief individuals in the corporation, and if 
not whether we can at least be successful 


in a civil action against the corporation it- 
self. Any effective action on the part of the 
Government is always objected to, as a 
matter of course, by the wrongdoers, by the 
beneficiaries of the wrongdoers, and by 
their champions ; and often one of the most 
effective ways of attacking the action 
of the Government is by objecting to prac- 
tical action upon the ground that it does 
not go far enough. One of the favorite 
devices of those who are really striving to 
prevent the enforcement of these laws is 


to clamor for action of such severity that 

it can not be undertaken because it will be 
certain to fail if tried. An instance of this 
is the demand often made for criminal 
prosecutions where such prosecutions 
would be certain to fail. We have 
found by actual experience that a jury 
which will gladly punish a corporation 
by fine, for instance, will acquit the in- 
dividual members of that corporation if 
we proceed against them criminally 
because of those very things which the 


corporation which they direct and con- 
trol has done. In a recent case against 
the Licorice Trust we indicted and 
tried the two corporations and their 
respective presidents. The contracts 
and other transactions establishing the 
guilt of the corporations were made 
through, and so far as they were in writ- 
ing were signed by, the two presidents. 
Yet the jury convicted the two corpora- 
tions and acquitted the two men. Both 
verdicts could not possibly have been cor- 


rect ; but apparently the average juryman 
wishes to see trusts broken up, and is 
quite ready to fine the corporation itself; 
but is very reluctant to find the facts 
"proven beyond a reasonable doubt" 
when it comes to sending to jail a 
reputable member of the business com- 
munity for doing what the business com- 
munity has unhappily grown to recognize 
as well-nigh normal in business. More- 
over, under the necessary technicalities of 
criminal proceedings, often the only man 


who can be reached criminally will be some 

subordinate who is not the real guilty party 
at all. 

/ Many men of large wealth have been 
guilty of conduct which from the moral 
standpoint is criminal, and their misdeeds 
are to a peculiar degree reprehensible, 
because those committing them have no 
excuse of want, of poverty, of weakness 
and ignorance to offer as partial atone- 
ment. / When in addition to moral re- 
sponsibility these men have a legal respon- 


sibility which can be proved so as to im- 
press a judge and jury, then the Department 
will strain every nerve to reach them crimi- 
nally. Where this is impossible, then it 
will take whatever action will be most 
effective under the actual conditions. 

In the last six years we have shown 
that there is no individual and no cor- 
poration so powerful that he or it stands 
above the possibility of punishment under 
the law. Our aim is to try to do some- 
thing effective; our purpose is to stamp 

out the evil; we shall seek to find the 

most effective device for this purpose ; and 
we shall then use it, whether the device 
can be found in existing law or must be 
supplied by legislation. Moreover, when 
we thus take action against the wealth 
which works iniquity, we are acting in 
the interest of every man of property who 
acts decently and fairly by his fellows ; and 
we are strengthening the hands of those 
who propose fearlessly to defend property 
against all unjust attacks. No individual, 


no corporation, obeying the law has any- 
thing to fear from this Administration. 
During the present trouble with the 
stock market I have, of course, received 
countless requests and suggestions, public 
and. private, that I should say or do some- 
thing to ease the situation, j There is a 
world-wide financial disturbance; it is felt 
in the bourses of Paris and Berlin; and 
British consols are lower than for a gen- 
eration, while British railway securities 
have also depreciated. On the New 


York Stock Exchange the disturbance 


has been peculiarly severe. Most of it I be- 
lieve to be due to matters not peculiar to the 
United States, and most of the remainder 
to matters wholly unconnected with any 
governmental action; but it may well be 
that the determination of the Government 
(in which, gentlemen, it will not waver), 
to punish certain malefactors of great 
wealth, has been responsible for some- 
thing of the trouble ; at least to the extent 
of having caused these men to combine to 


bring about as much financial stress as 

possible, in order to discredit the policy 
of the Government and thereby secure a 
reversal of that policy, so that they may 
enjoy unmolested the fruits of their own 
evil-doing. That they have misled many 
good people into believing that there should 
be such reversal of policy is possible. If so 
I am sorry; but it will not alter my attitude. 
Once for all let me say that so far as I am 
concerned, and for the eighteen months of 
my Presidency that remain, there will be 


no change in the policy we have steadily 

pursued, no let up in the effort to secure 
the honest observance of the law ; for I re- 
gard this contest as one to determine who 
shall rule this free country — the people 
through their governmental agents or a 
few ruthless and domineering men, whose 
wealth makes them peculiarly formi- 
dable, because they hide behind the 
breastworks of corporate organization. 
I wish there to be no mistake on this 
point; it is idle to ask me not to prose- 


cute criminals, rich or poor. But I desire 

no less emphatically to have it under- 
stood that we have sanctioned and will 
sanction no action of a vindictive 
type, and above all no action which 
shall inflict great and unmerited suffer- 
ing upon innocent stockholders or upon 
the public as a whole. Our purpose 
is to act with the minimum of 
harshness compatible with attaining 
our ends. In the man of great wealth 
who has earned his wealth honestly and 


uses it wisely we recognize a good citizen 

of the best type, worthy of all praise and 
respect. Business can only be done under 
modern conditions through corporations, 
and our purpose is heartily to favor the 
corporations that do well. The Adminis- 
tration appreciates that liberal but honest 
profits for legitimate promoting, good 
salaries, ample salaries, for able and 
upright management, and gener- 
ous dividends for capital employed 
either in founding or continuing 


wholesome business ventures, are the 
factors necessary for successful corporate 
activity and therefore for generally pros- 
perous business conditions. All these 
are compatible with fair dealing as between 
man and man and rigid obedience to the 
law. Our aim is to help every honest 
man, every honest corporation, and our 
policy means in its ultimate analysis a 
healthy and prosperous expansion of the 
business activities of honest business men 
and honest corporations. 


I very earnestly hope that the legisla- 
tion which deals with the regulation of 
corporations engaged in interstate business 
will also deal with the rights and interests 
of the wageworkers employed by those 
corporations. Action was taken by the 
Congress last year limiting the number 
of hours that railway employees should 
be employed. The law is a good one; 
but if in practice it proves necessary 
to strengthen it, it must be strengthened. 
We have now secured a national em- 


ployers' liability law; but ultimately a 

more far-reachmg and thorough-going 
law must be passed. It is monstrous 
that a man or woman who is crippled in 
an industry, even as the result of taking 
what are the necessary risks of the occupa- 
tion, should be required to bear the whole 
burden of the loss. That burden should 
be distributed and not placed solely upon 
the weakest individual, the one least able 
to carry it. By making the employer 
liable the loss will ultimately be dis- 

tributed among all the beneficiaries of 

the business. 

I also hope that there will be legisla- 
tion increasing the power of the National 
Government to deal with certain matters 
concerning the health of our people every- 
where; the Federal authorities, for instance, 
should join with all the State authorities 
in warring against the dreadful scourge of 
tuberculosis. Your own State govern- 
ment, here in Massachusetts, deserves high 
praise for the action it has taken in these 

public health matters during the last few 

years; and in this, as in some other mat- 
ters, I hope to see the National Govern- 
ment stand abreast of the foremost State 

I have spoken of but one or two laws 
which, in my judgment, it is advisable to 
enact as part of the general scheme for 

makingtheinterfcrenceof thcNationalGov- 

ernment more effective in securing justice 
and fair dealing as between man and man 
here in the United States. Let me add, 

however, that while it is necessary to have 

legislation when conditions arise wheie we 

can only cope with evils through the 

joint action of all of us, yet that we can 

never afford to forget that in the last 

analysis the all-important factor for each of 

us must be his own individual character. 

It is a necessary thing to have good laws, 

good institutions; but the most necessary 

of all things is to have a high quality of 

individual citizenship. This does not mean 

that we can afford to neglect legislation. 


It will be highly disastrous if we permit 

ourselves to be misled by the pleas of 
those who see in an unrestricted individ- 
ualism the all-sufficient panacea for social 
evils; but it will be even more disastrous 
to adopt the opposite panacea of any so- 
cialistic system which would destroy all 
individualism, which would root out the 
fiber of our whole citizenship. In any 
great movement, such as that in which we 
are engaged, nothing is more necessary 
than sanity, than the refusal to be led 


into extremes by the advocates of the 

ultra course on either side. Those pro- 
fessed friends of liberty who champion 
license are the worst foes of liberty and 
tend by the reaction their violence causes 
to throw the Government back into 
the hands of the men who champion 
corruption and tyranny in the name 
of order. So it is with this movement 
for securing justice toward all men, and 
equality of opportunity so far as it can 
be secured by governmental action. The 


rich man who with hard arrogance de- 
clines to consider the rights and the needs 
of those who are less well off, and the 
poor man who excites or indulges in 
envy and hatred of those who are bet- 
ter off, are alike alien to the spirit 
of our national life. Each of them should 
learn to appreciate the baseness and deg- 
radation of his point of view, as evil 
in the one case as in the other. There 
exists no more sordid and unlovely type 
of social development than a plutocracy, 


for there is a peculiar unwholesomeness 

in a social and governmental ideal where 
wealth by and of itself is held up as the 
greatest good. The materialism of such a 
view, whether it finds its expression in the 
life of a man who accumulates a vast for- 
tune in ways that are repugnant to every 
instinct of generosity and of fair dealing, 
or whether it finds its expression in the 
vapidly useless and self-indulgent life of 
the inheritor of that fortune, is contemptible 
in the eyes of all men capable of a thrill of 


lofty feeling. Where the power of the law 
can be wisely used to prevent or to mini- 
mize the acquisition or business employ- 
ment of such wealth and to make it pay 
by income or inheritance tax its proper 
share of the burden of government, I 
would invoke that power without a mo- 
ment's hesitation. 

But while we can accomplish something 
by legislation, legislation can never be 
more than a part, and often no more than 
a small part, in the general scheme of 

moral progress; and crude or vindictive 

legislation may at any time bring such 
progress to a halt. Certain socialistic 
leaders propose to redistribute the 
world's goods by refusing to thrift and 
energy and industry their proper superior- 
ity over folly and idleness and sullen envy. 
Such legislation would merely, in the 
words of the president of Columbia Uni- 
versity, "wreck the world's efficiency for 
the purpose of redistributing the world's 
discontent." We should all of us 

work heart and soul for the real and per- 
manent betterment which will lift our 
democratic civilization to a higher level of 
safety and usefulness. Such betterment 
can come only by the slow, steady growth 
of the spirit which metes a generous, but 
not a sentimental, justice to each man on 
his merits as a man, and which recognizes 
the fact that the highest and deepest hap- 
piness for the individual lies not in selfish- 
ness but in service. 


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